The Woman Magician
Llewellyn Publications, 2011
Reviewed by Nicky
The Woman Magician was born from the author’s experiences with the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.), Golden Dawn and Thelema, in which she felt that, as a woman, she was not a magician in her own right, due to the emphasis on the male as the director of energy. Drawing on her feminist beliefs and knowledge of women’s history, experiences and needs, the author sought to create a workable tradition for the woman magician, a Magia Femina.
The first part of the book explores the history of the O.T.O., Golden Dawn and Thelema in relation feminism and the needs of its woman-identified practitioners. Williams recounts her personal experience as a Priestess in each order, particularly her responses to the standard rituals. She then moves on to discuss how women have come to be spectators rather than participants in the Western Magical Traditions, via the exploration of tradition, culture, history, philosophy, theology and magic. Each chapter introduces the reader to a personification of the concept, initially contacted by the author via meditation.
The second part combines her knowledge of Western Magical Traditions with her exploration of the above to create a tradition that is empowering to women, putting them in the role of magician rather than spectator. As the book reaches its conclusion, the author attempts to reconcile her feminist ideals with her relationship with the tradition, as personified by the deity/entity named Lady Tradition.
Initially, the writing struck me as intellectual, thorough and well researched. The author has clearly not simply read a book or two, but critically analysed the contents of many. She draws from a wide variety of sources and is careful to either avoid any dubious sources or to make mention of concerns before explaining why she has included them in her writing.
Additionally, her conclusions are enlightening and had me making note of topics I’d like to explore further down the track. This is not a quick, light read for a rainy day; this is a deep, ponderous work.
The magical system suggested seems workable and sensible for a modern Witch. The rituals are touching and empowering but confronting enough to help the woman grow as a magician and as a person. Having personally participated in a similar ritual based on Inanna’s descent to the Underworld, I can attest to the power of such a rite. I also found the final initiation, the Initiation of the Sun, to be particularly moving. I can imagine the pride a magician might feel at its culmination.
Of course, no book is without its flaws. As I said, it is a meaty book that can’t be read in one sitting. That in itself is not a flaw, however given the weight of the book, I got the impression that there was a lot of assumed knowledge expected of the reader. Although many rituals and aspects of Western Traditional Magic were explored, not all concepts and symbols were not sufficiently explained for one new to the path. Explanations given seemed almost like a reminder overview. This didn’t lessen my appreciation of the author’s work, however it did leave me confused and needing to look things up at times. This is most notable during discussions of the Qabalah. Although vital aspects were explained in detail, some of the concepts introduced to help explain the Qabalah also needed to be explained, as they are not, in my opinion, general knowledge in the same way casting a circle or the Goddess may be in Pagan/magical circles.
I also noticed a couple of points where the author didn’t fully represent a Goddess or myth or got some facts wrong. For example, she lists Áine (sometimes spelled Aine, without the accent on the A) as simply the name Patricia Monaghan gave to the fairy queen and Goddess of spring. However, Áine is an Irish Goddess of midsummer, wealth, love and fertility, who is sometimes counted as a fairy queen and a Goddess of sovereignty. Though the ritual in which Áine appears still manages to be effective, I feel it would have been improved with a fuller, more accurate representation of the deity.
Overall, Williams has written an interesting book and a genuinely inspiring, inclusive magical system that could be enjoyed by women of different levels of experience and background.
Four pawprints out of five.